Downtown Seattle is the heart of the city, located between Pioneer Square in the south and Seattle Center and Belltown in the north. It is compact enough to explore on foot and it spreads out along a long, narrow, north-south strip, which means that you can walk from one end to the other and then return by taking a bus, the Waterfront Streetcar trolley which leaves from the International District, or the Seattle Monorail which returns north to Seattle Center from Westlake Center.
Pike Place Market
One of the most popular attractions in downtown is the Pike Place Market, which has been designated a national historic district. The market’s beginnings date back to 1907. It encompasses seven acres and provides a market experience, offering fresh produce, seafood, bakery, wine and cheese, crafts, and other products. It is also home to dozens of restaurants and eateries.
Pike Place Starbucks
While you’re in Pike Place, be sure to visit the Pike Place Starbucks. This is the birthplace of the first Starbucks shop, which opened in 1971. In it early days, this store sold whole-bean coffee rather than brew or sell the drink. It soon developed a reputation among locals for its quality, and opened other locations where coffee drinks were actually sold. Today, Starbucks stores grace millions of streets across the world.
Seattle’s waterfront has always been Seattle’s most colorful quarters. It runs from the western and northern edge of Pioneer Square all the way to Pike Place Market and is lined with an assortment of fish bars, oyster digs, boat docks, nautical shops, import emporiums, and piers including a few of them with ferry services. Pier 52, in particular, has services to Bremerton, Vashon Island, and Bainbridge Island. Pier 69 offers the Victoria Clipper ferry service to Victoria on Vancouver Island, only a 2.5 hour excursion.
The Seattle Aquarium is one of the best in the country, offering a window into the marine life of the Pacific Northwest. It is located along the waterfront at Pier 59. More than 500 species are displayed, including sea otters, seals, Pacific salmon, starfishes, and crab. The highlight of the aquarium is an underwater glass dome that surrounds visitors and is inhabited by sharks, salmon, and octopus. There is also an octopus exhibit where you can look at a creature that, when fully grown, weighs 100 pounds with an arm span of over 20 feet.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop is off Pier 54 of the waterfront and has been around since 1899. The shop exhibits legendary curiosities like a pig with three tails, a preserved mummy that was discovered in Arizona 300 years ago, and the Lord’s Prayer engraved on a grain of rice and oil paintings on the heads of pins. The shop also sells Northwest and Native American crafts, having provided other prestigious museums and institutions like the Smithsonian Institute with a number of private collections over the years.
Ivar’s Acres of Clams at Pier 54 is Seattle’s famous waterfront seafood restaurant, originally established in 1946. This restaurant has a fish bar and grown into a chain, selling its signature clam chowder.
Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center
The Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center at the Bell Street Pier is the first of its kind in the United States. It is a contemporary museum with interactive exhibits and short films that educates visitors about the fisheries and maritime industries of the Pacific Northwest. Among other activities, visitors can use binoculars and a radar screen to track vessels in Elliott Bay and paddle full-size Kayaks through virtual waters.
Seattle Art Museum
The Seattle Art Museum occupies an unimpressive building of limestone and sandstone, but hosts a more impressive permanent collection. The museum features 25,000 objects of art, ranging from contemporary American, to African, to ancient Egyptian. There are exhibits of Asian, Native American, and African art figures as well, including carved Native houseposts and thunderbird sculptures that have 11-feet wingspans. Facing the front of the museum is the Hammering Man, which stands 48 feet tall and was erected as a tribute to workers.
Bank of America Tower
The Bank of America Tower is the tallest building in Seattle and the tallest west of the Mississippi River. It stands at 1,050 feet above sea level and was constructed at a cost of $285 million. It has a 73rd floor observation deck that visitors can reach to enjoy vista views of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and Lake Washington. The tower is also home to food stands, shops, and an art gallery featuring the works of local artists.
Fairmont Olympic Hotel
The Fairmont Olympic Hotel is an Italian Renaissance style building with an opulent interior featuring oak-paneled walls, terrazzo floors, and Palladian windows. The furnishings feature antique mirrors and bronze statuaries. Soon after it was completed in 1924, the hotel became the place to be and the place to be seen. All of the city’s social elite hung out at the hotel and it hosted all of the glamorous weddings, balls, and parties. In 1979, the hotel was designated a national historic place. The Four Seasons hotel chain assumed management of the hotel, spending $62.5 million to give it a facelift, and recently sold it to the Fairmont chain.
The Benaroya Hall is the venue where the Seattle Symphony performs. The Taper Auditorium seats about 2,500 people and is acclaimed for its superior acoustics – considered an acoustical masterpiece. The Benaroya Hall features a Grand Lobby that offers spectacular views of Puget Sound and the Seattle skyline. The building is also decorated with private mural paintings including Rauschenberg’s Echo, di Suvero’s Schubert Sonata (a steel wind vane), and Chihuly’s chandelier sculptures made of silver and gold.
Brewer, Stephen, Constance Brissenden, and Anita Carmin. Pacific Northwest. New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc., 2003. ISBN: 0789496801.
Lenhart, Maria, Ray Riegert, Joanna Pearlman, and Glenn Kim. Ultimate Washington, 2nd Edition. Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 1995. ISBN: 1569750327.
“Travel to Victoria in Comfort and Style.” < http://www.clippervacations.com/ferry/>
“Waterfront Attractions.” < http://www.portseattle.org/seaport/waterfront/>
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